The Theory of No Change

The Theory of No Change (TONC) is an analysis framework for case studies, project design and theory-based evaluations. The theory is used for analysing situations that are resisting to change, and can help understand which factors are responsible for stagnation, e.g. in the form that a project does not achieve the change or project goals that it was aiming for. The TONC can serve for a reconstruction of a Theory of Change (TOC). It can also help develop a program logic in the context of program design, and it can serve as a basis for building a logical framework (logframe) or other project theory.

The Theory of No Change is thus a tool to relate the theoretical intervention strategy (Theory of Change) of a project or program to what actually happened in reality. Why were the intended changes not achieved? What are the obstacles to change? Finally, the theory serves to show ways of overcoming the obstacles.

Dr. Wörlen developed the Theory of No Change as part of a project with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and its Climate-Eval Community of Practice, in which she examined the evolution of energy efficiency in two countries (Thailand and Poland) over decades in a meta-evaluation. The theory was presented at several conferences, including the 2016 International Energy Evaluation Conference (IEPPEC). In addition, Arepo and other authors, evaluators and researchers have tested the TONC and keep developing it further.